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Leafs name newcomer Robidas an alternate captain to complete leadership group

10/08/2014 12:15 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - When the Toronto Maple Leafs brought Stephane Robidas in for a free-agent visit over the summer, team brass told the veteran defenceman what they envisioned him doing if he signed.

"In his role, we felt that he would be a guy that could provide leadership, not only to our younger players but some of our older players," coach Randy Carlyle said. "He can share minutes and he can make a contribution (more than) on the ice."

On Wednesday, Carlyle told Robidas that would include wearing an "A" on his chest as one of the team's alternate captains along with Joffrey Lupul. Robidas replaces Jay McClement to complete the leadership group with captain Dion Phaneuf.

Leadership was a major question late last season when the Leafs lost 12 of the final 14 games to fall out of playoff contention. The 37-year-old Robidas, who wasn't around to be scarred by that collapse, brings a respected voice in the locker-room.

"That's what he's done all his career, so we don't look at it that we're asking him to do something he's not comfortable doing," Carlyle said.

The Leafs made a significant commitment to Robidas on July 1 by inking him to a US$9-million, three-year deal even though he was still working to get back from a broken leg suffered during the playoffs. He's expected to be on the first defensive pairing alongside Phaneuf, at least to start the season.

"I think that he adds a lot to our team," Phaneuf said. "He plays the game hard night in and night out, he's very smart. ... He's good with the puck in tight areas, he makes real good short plays in the defensive zone to relieve pressure."

Off the ice, Robidas already seems well-liked by his new teammates. He played in just one exhibition game, the final one, but he's a go-to voice in the room.

"It shows a lot of confidence in me," Robidas said of being named an alternate captain. "It's something that I don't need the 'A' to be a leader and you don't need letters to be a leader. (It's) something that I take pride in. I just want to be myself. I'm not going to come in and change everything. I'm just going to play like I can play and be myself."

Robidas has credited Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien for helping him develop when he was a young player. Therrien coached Robidas in the AHL for three years with the Fredericton Canadiens and Quebec Citadelles.

"All the credit goes to him because he had passion, he had character and he's such a good person," Therrien said. "He was a great warrior on the ice. For a small player, he played really hard and that's the reason why he made it to the NHL and he ended up having a great career."

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